Blue Jays: Why now is a good time to play the Yankees

The Blue Jays may be dealing with a few key injuries, but with the way things have been going for the Yankees lately, the timing of their match-up is good.

Despite the fact that we started Sunday with the bad news that Teoscar Hernandez is dealing with an injury that will keep him out of the lineup for a while, the Blue Jays finished the day on a high note, winning the rubber match of their five-gave series with the Red Sox.

The victory pushes their record to 22-18, which actually puts them a full game ahead of the New York Yankees for second place in the AL East. Given the way that this season’s playoff structure works, with the top two teams from each division qualifying, plus the best two of the rest from the AL field, it was an important win for the Blue Jays. That’s especially the case because their next stop is back in Buffalo where they’ll host the first of ten games they will play against the Yankees before the regular season has concluded.

And they couldn’t be squaring off against the Bronx Bombers at a better time.

That sounds like an odd thing to say with Hernandez now on the sidelines, where he’ll join other key contributors like Bo Bichette, Ken Giles, Jordan Romano, and more, but it’s more about what’s going on with the Yankees at the moment. After Sunday’s loss to the Orioles, they’ve started September with a 2-5 record, but the problems actually began back on August 18th when they played a three-game series with the Rays. They were swept by Tampa Bay, and since that date they’re just 5-13. First they lost their grip on first place in the East when the Rays passed them, and now they’ve fallen behind the Blue Jays to the 2nd Wild Card spot, barely hanging on to playoff position altogether.

What’s happened to the Yankees? Like the Blue Jays, they’re dealing with a series of injuries to key players this year as well, which was actually the case in 2019 too. While they were able to implement all kinds of “next man up” success last year with staggering depth, they haven’t had the same luck in 2020. This time they’re really missing on potent bats like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, James Paxton, Gio Urshela, and they lost Luis Severino for the year before the season even began.

Not only are the Yankees missing some key pieces that make their roster so devastating, their healthy stars have been struggling to put up normal numbers. Gary Sanchez is hitting .130 over his first 100 at-bats, Brett Gardner at .180, and Gleybor Torres is hitting just .232 while dealing with some injury concerns of his own this year. Perhaps the most puzzling has been the recent struggles from Gerrit Cole, who the Yankees signed to the biggest free agent contract in history this past winter (only Bryce Harper was given more, but his contract was over 13 years for 330 million as opposed to Cole’s 324 for nine years). Over his last three starts he’s allowed 14 runs (10 earned) over just 16 innings, seeing his ERA jump almost a full point up to 3.63.

With just 20 games remaining in the Blue Jays’ schedule, they’ll play half of them against the Yankees, starting on Monday. There is still plenty of time for the Yankees to right the ship, and with as much talent as they’ve got on the roster it’s only a matter of time. That said, the Blue Jays have been playing some pretty solid baseball over the last few weeks, even if it’s come with plenty of bonehead mistakes, and now isn’t a bad time for the match-up even with Hernandez and others unavailable.

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It’s an important opportunity for the Blue Jays, as they could really put the Yankees in a vulnerable spot over the last few weeks of the season, and cement their own place in the standings at the same time. Of course, it’s not just about taking a bite out of the Yankees either, as even though the Blue Jays are in an enviable place in the standings, there is still plenty of work to do to guarantee their place for October baseball.

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